Airport commission recommends staying with United Airlines
April 4, 2011 at 6:02 p.m.
Updated April 3, 2011 at 11:04 p.m.
Victorians should continue to fly United.
The Victoria Regional Airport Commission has recommended accepting the proposal of United Airlines for continuing its air carrier service.
The vote came after hearing public comments during a joint session Monday between the airport commission and the Victoria County Commissioners Court.
Dale Fowler of the Victoria Economic Development Corporation and Randy Vivian of the Victoria Chamber of Commerce, addressed the court and commission.
Both favored retaining United.
Fowler said that the clients and business interests the economic development corporation are attempting to bring into Victoria "very much expressed an interest" in being able to hook up with international flights in Houston.
Vivian's office fielded calls from the public on the choices. He also contacted the area chemical plants, Caterpillar, banks and other major employers in town who might use the airport regularly.
Vivian said the chamber received about 40 phone calls with 90 percent favoring United.
"In talking to the plants, I found a couple of major issues," Vivian said. "First, almost every one of them has a policy against charter flights, which SeaPort would fall under. The other is, 60 to 70 percent of them cannot fly on a single engine plane. If they are doing commercial travel, it has to be on a multi-prop plane."
Vivian also said flying into Love Field as opposed to Houston Intercontinental Airport was frowned upon by those needing to make national and international connections.
County Judge Don Pozzi said his office also received public input through telephone calls and emails with most favoring staying with United.
"It is up to the (Federal Aviation Administration). It's not up to us, though they do ask us for a recommendation," said Pozzi.
WHY NOT DALLAS?
Not everyone, however, favored staying with United.
Victoria resident Dennis Tardan, who drives to Houston regularly for business, said switching to SeaPort's flights to Dallas would have its benefits.
"This is an opportunity that we have in Victoria to open up a market," he said. "How many chances do we get to have a new market that is open to Victoria?
"Any business that is working in Houston trying to develop or work in the Victoria market, drives here," Tardan continued. "Nobody day trips in one day to Dallas to do business. Yet, in Dallas, there are so many opportunities. We could give Victoria and all our shop owners and retail outlets an opportunity to be able to connect to Dallas. Go up there in one day and get back. We have a chance here to do that.
"I understand the corporate interests we have here have a very good reason to continue doing business as usual and it would benefit them. I ask you to consider the benefit to the entire community and the economic development that we could have by opening ourselves to Dallas."
Airport manager Jason Milewski will submit the required paperwork to the U.S. Department of Transportation on Tuesday recommending United for participation in the federal Essential Air Service program.
EAS funds are awarded for two-year periods. The current contract expires in July.
United's proposal includes continuing its flights to Houston's Intercontinental Airport. United uses Pinnacle Airlines for its regional air service. SeaPort Airlines made a proposal that includes flights to Dallas Love Field.
"The building of the Dallas market would be phenomenal, but risking giving up what we have with United and the potential we have with United is a risk, in my professional opinion, not worth taking," Milewski said.
"Based on the feedback we received and based on our operation, my professional recommendation would to be to stick with United, hold them to their new pricing, work with them on scheduling and work with them on a possible third flight," he said.
Milewski said dialogue with the airline has improved and United also recently slashed its rates almost in half for advanced ticket sales.
"If and when problems arise such as canceled flights, being late, we have ways to handle those now," he said. "I spent an hour-and-a-half on Friday talking to the Department on Transportation about what we can do to get a third flight."
Milewski, whose office heard from about 100 members of the public on the topic, said he was satisfied that the people had a chance to make their feelings known.
"The public has spoken very clearly," Milewski said.